Is aquatic therapy optimally prescribed for Parkinson’s disease? A systematic review and meta-analysis Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND:Aquatic therapy offers an alternative physiotherapy approach to managing the motor and non-motor symptoms associated with Parkinson's disease (PD). OBJECTIVE:This review examined exercise prescription for aquatic therapy in PD and evaluated if aquatic therapy is as effective as land-based physiotherapy for improving movement, disability and wellbeing in people living with PD. METHODS:A systematic search of eight databases was conducted to identify suitable randomized controlled trials from inception until August 2019. Aquatic therapy prescription data and outcomes of interest included gait, balance, motor disability, mobility, falls, mood, cognitive function and health related quality of life data was extracted and synthesised. A meta-analysis was performed where appropriate. RESULTS:Fourteen studies involving 472 participants (Hoehn & Yahr scale I-IV) met the inclusion criteria. Eight were of modest quality, scoring 70-80% on the PEDro scale. Seven studies were included in the meta-analysis. Exercise prescription was highly variable and often insufficiently dosed. Similar gains were shown for aquatic therapy and land exercises for balance, motor disability or quality of life. A statistically significant difference was found for mobility as measured using the TUG (-1.5 s, 95 % CI -2.68 to -0.32; p = 0.01, I2 = 13%), in favor of aquatic therapy. CONCLUSION:Aquatic therapy had positive outcomes for gait, balance and mobility that were comparable to land-based physiotherapy in the early stages of PD. The optimal dosage, content and duration of aquatic interventions for PD could not be confirmed in this meta-analysis. Many trials appeared to be under-dosed and therapy duration was low, ranging from 3-11 weeks.


  • Carroll, Louise M
  • Morris, Meg E
  • O’Connor, William T
  • Clifford, Amanda M

publication date

  • 2020